Torrington's Ashlynn Cook. A Junior Olympian runner. By John Torsiello.
Torrington's Ashlynn Cook had quite a thrill recently when she competed at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic National Meet held in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
It wasn't so much about where she placed or her time.
Cook simply enjoyed the journey and reveled in the experience of being around so many stellar young runners and teammates from the Litchfield Track Club.
The event was held at the Whispering Pines Golf Course in the Palmetto State.
"For me, the Nationals consisted of just one race, which was the 5K," said the THS junior. "Going into the race I knew it was going to be tough. However, my goals were to get my PR (personal record) for the 5k, as well as getting out from the starting line strong and staying out strong."
Cook wound up finishing 152nd in the girls 15-16-year-old race in a time of 24:27.21.
"It was great, especially because I got to go and experience it all with my teammates, whom I consider my family. I was able to run with the best girls in the country and it was most definitely a fantastic time and learning experience."
To reach the Junior Olympic Nationals, Cook had to qualify in both the state meet, which was held at White Memorial Foundation in Litchfield, and the regional meet held in Augusta, Me.
"I was practicing for one to two hours a day with my team and on my own," said Cook. "I did a few road races around the area to make sure I kept myself prepared."
Cook competed for the Raider cross-country team this past fall, finishing third on her team and 101st overall at the CIAC Class MM race at Wickham Park in November. He time was 25:23. She was Naugatuck Valley league All-Copper Division in 2013.
"I did alright this fall but didn't get to my PR. At states, I ran a strong race coming in third for the team."
Cook began running in earnest in the sixth grade, but didn’t start getting competitive until seventh grade. She recounted her beginnings in the sport.
“I was good for my age but there were always many girls better. Where I am today took time to get to.” She likes the saying, "Expect the unexpected.” She added, “I wanted to take up a sport that could eventually get me to somewhere in life on my own, but I had no idea that this is where I would be today.”
As a member of the Litchfield Track Club, Cook is under the guidance of longtime running coach Dave Driscoll.
She has said Driscoll has had an enormous impact on her running career.
“Racing across the state and across the country, he has been with me through my entire journey and I would not be where I am today without him. Dave is one of the few people who believed and saw a true athlete in me that I never saw. He has helped me accomplish more than I would have ever imagined and I cannot thank him enough.”
Cook is one busy young woman. During the spring she competes with the THS track and field team and plays basketball in a summer league. In the fall, it’s strictly cross-country and during the winter it’s back to basketball. She competes year-round in various road races around Connecticut. She talked about the challenge of playing so many sports
"It's not too difficult balancing sports. However, the transition can be straining on my muscles depending upon the season. But I usually switch over pretty quick."
She commented on her goals as she progresses in her athletic career.
"Throughout the rest of my high school running career I look forward to just improving to my greatest ability. My goals this year and for the following year to come is to break the school 800-meter and 1,600-meter records and hopefully make states and nationals for track, as well as cross-country next year."
Cook is unsure of where she will attend college once her high school days are over.
But she said "I would love to run in college."
You can be sure that Ashlynn Cook will be giving it her all to reach that goal.